Here is some useful information we have gathered to help you in the often confusing maze of genealogy research. Please feel free to contact us with any suggestions or discoveries you may run across in your travels. We'll be glad to post them for other members to share.
My Italian Family contributed a very useful breakdown of how to be an amateur genealogist.
L'Italia dei Cognomi, an Italian genealogical website, provides visitors with a detailed map of Italy and information about their name. You may know the province where your surname originated, but find other regions where your name appears. The site utilizes local records and indicates concentrations of citizens with that surname. If you click on the American flag, you can get the same information for the United States.
You can get a photograph of any building in the five New York boroughs from late 1939 to late 1941. The pictures were originally created by the city's Department of Taxes as part of its real estate appraisal system, and there is one photograph for each building in each borough (vacant lots were not photographed).
Fees are $25 for an 8x10" print and $35 for 11x14" print, plus $2.00 postage.
To order, you must fill out the Department's form, which we have reproduced for you. If you do not know the block and lot number of the building, provide the street address and as detailed a desription as you can. Once you have filled out the form, print it and mail it to:Mr Kenneth CobbAllow 3 weeks for delivery. You may also go to the Archives in person, Mon-Thurs from 9 to 4:30 and Friday from 9 to 1. Their telephone number is (212) 788 8580.
New York City Department of Records & Information Services
31 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007
Italy has a dual system of civil record keeping. Birth, marriage and death certificates are prepared and maintained by the ufficio di stato civile (Office of Vital Records) of the town or city. Copies of the records are then filed with the archivio di stato (State Archive) of the Province.
The LDS (Mormon) Church has microfilmed thousands of vital documents from all over Italy. The time periods covered are, as a general rule, 1840 to 1870, but with some back to the 1700's and some as recent as 1910. You can order and view copies of the films at a Family History Center.
The LDS's International Genealogical Index (IGI) and Ancestral File (AF) are databanks with millions of names from around the World. If you're not sure of the exact area your family comes from, use the IGI and the AF as your starting point.
The Family History Centers also have microfilms of American cemetery records, as well as most phone books for the Italian provinces. There is a small charge to search each book.
If you write to a parish priest about your ancestors, you might also ask if he knows anyone living in the town with your name today. Address the letter to Chiesa Madre (Mother Church). There is usually one church in an area that is the primary church or administrative center. If you want the Roman Catholic church in an area were there are also Orthodox churches, address the letter to Chiesa Madre Latina. It's also a good idea to include a small donation (US$5.-10.).
Whenever you write to anyone in Italy, always include a self-addressed envelope with an international reply certificate for return postage (available at your local post office).
If you'd like a photograph of the ship your ancestor sailed on, contact the Steamship Historical Society of America Collection at the University of Baltimore Library. They have more than 100,000 ship photos and more than 30,000 negatives. Write to:Ann Carvel House, LibrarianBe sure to tell them everything you know about the ship, including the dates it sailed and/or brought your ancestors to the USA. You will be charged $10.00 per half-hour of research time, payable only if the information you requested is located. If there is a photograph, you'll receive a price sheet.
Steamship Historical Society of America Collection
University of Baltimore Library
Baltimore, MD 21201-5779
The Collection has NO information about passengers.
If you're visiting cemeteries, be aware that most small towns had none until the second half of the 19th century.
Your local telephone company probably has a book called The Directory of Directories, which lists all the directories available in the US, Canada and abroad, and their cost. There are quite a few for Italy, mostly priced at $60. Look in the Index pages of your phone book for information on the Directory.
People were not always as accurate with birthdates as they are today. In the past, when a child was born close to a holiday, it was common to celebrate the birthday on the holiday (usually a Saint's Day).
If you have your ancestor's US Certificate of Naturalization, use it to obtain copies of his/her Declaration of Intention, Petition for Naturalization and Certificate of Arrival (from Italy). You may get lucky and find information you did not have, such as date of arrival in the US, name of ship, birthdates, etc., which are necessary for obtaining a Certificate of Naturalization. The number in the upper left hand corner of the certificate, plus the petition volume and number just below it, are the references to mention when contacting the courthouse in the city and county also listed on the certificate. There will probably be a small charge for any searches you request.
When you're having trouble reading the old, faint handwriting on original documents, try using a yellow highlighter on a discardable copy to pick out the most illegible letters.
Let us know if you are traveling to Italy with a camera and you are willing to take a picture of a fellow Radici member's family house or grave. The same goes for looking up names in local phone books.
When you go to Italy be sure to buy plenty of film before you leave the States. If you're lucky you'll find a parish priest who'll let you photograph his archives and you may shoot far more pictures than you anticipated.
Track down local (i.e., neighborhood) newspapers in the town your family emigrated to, then browse through the obituaries.
Try looking up your ancestral town in Yahoo or Alta Vista: you might find an official web site or, even better, an amateur who lives there.
Le liste di leva (military conscription lists) contain immigration information (date of immigration and destination).
If you are unsure of your ancestors' exact surname, check the birth certificates of the first children born in the US.